NORTH KINGSTOWN — This was the scene on Wednesday inside an enormous, frigid warehouse in Quonset Point: Hundreds of actors, a life-size rickety replica of a real wooden bridge, and dozens of carefully crated sets designed to look like hospital rooms, a library in Iowa, and the bedrooms, kitchens, parlor and craft room of a creepy-looking home in Haverhill, Mass.
It was the set of “NOS4A2,” a 10-episode television series being produced by AMC Studios — the same TV studio that made “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men”— in association with Tornante Television.
Pronounced Nahs-for-A-too, “NOS4A2” is a supernatural horror drama series, set in blue-collar New England and based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Joe Hill. Hill is a son of Stephen King and is also one of the show’s producers, along with Tom Brady (not the football star).
The series is set to premiere next summer and is being filmed entirely in Rhode Island.
Now a Los Angeles resident, Brady is a native of Seekonk who graduated from Lasalle Academy and Duke University before heading west to write.
“It was either a lawyer or a writer,” said Brady, who was supervising producer and writer on USA’s sci-fi espionage thriller “Colony.” He also wrote for four seasons of AMC’s western drama “Hell On Wheels,” and has written and created series for NBC, Entertainment One and Amblin Television.
On Wednesday, Brady was joined by the show’s executive producer and show runner Jami O’Brien; Lauren Corrao, president of Tornante Television and another of the show’s executive producers; and Jahkara Smith, who plays the role of Maggie Leigh, “Iowa’s bubbly, purple-haired librarian with a Scrabble Bag portal to the universe” for a press tour of the set, a glimpse of the filming, and a mini press conference, arranged by AMC.
“We are delighted to be in Rhode Island,” said O’Brien, who was born in Billerica, Mass., graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont and the Yale School of Drama, and also worked on “Hell On Wheels.”
Scenes for the show have already been shot in East Greenwich, Hope Valley, at the Peter Pan Bus station, in Narragansett at Aunt Carrie’s, and in Providence at Moses Brown School and at the Athenaeum. In Hope Valley, scenes were shot at David Shepherd’s 19th century Watson farmhouse on Dutch Island Road.
“We’ve been to just about every corner of the state,” said O’Brien.
“To places I never knew existed,” added a smiling Brady.
“There are so many different looks in Rhode Island,” said Corrao, also of Los Angeles. Looks that fit the bill for scenes appearing as cornfields in Kansas, parts of Colorado and Iowa, Haverhill, and “fantasy places.”
Rhode Island’s diversity and “priceless feeling of authenticity” made it the perfect place to “shoot our scary, New England fantasy horror show,” O’Brien said.
“And there’s the tax incentive too,” added Carrao, a Providence native who has family there and in Narragansett. She is a graduate of Classical High School and Brown University.
Brady said, “You can’t do Stephen King right without being in New England.” He described “NOS4A2” is “a family drama at its core.”
“The book is wonderful,” said Brady. “We’ve tried to stay close.”
Hill, who has visited the set in North Kingstown, is “a chip off the old block,” said Brady.
The book, published by William Morrow in 2013, debuted at number five on The New York Times Best-Seller List. It is the latest work by Hill to be optioned for the screen. His fantasy thriller “Horns” was made into a 2014 feature directed by Alex Aja and starred Daniel Radcliffe. Hill’s “Heart Shaped Box” is currently being redeveloped at Warner Brothers.
“NOS4A2” tells the story of Victoria “Vic” McQueen (played by Ashleigh Cummings, who starred in “The Goldfinch” and “Hounds of Love”), a young woman with an uncanny talent for finding lost things … a gift that is gradually destroying her mind. Her search for help leads her to someone with powers not unlike her own: the psychopath Charlie Manx (played by Emmy-nominated actor Zachary Quinto of “Star Trek” and “American Horror Story” fame), who has survived for a century by abducting children in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith (with the license plate NOS4A2).
Smith, who plays the librarian, said she “got very lucky” to land a part in the series.
“It’s my first acting job,” said the Air Force veteran and St. Louis, Miss., native who also goes by the name Sailor J on YouTube. “I never thought I’d be an actress because my teeth aren’t straight.”
Smith was actually sort of discovered by O’Brien, who saw one of Smith’s YouTube videos. They combine makeup tutorials with social commentary.
“They’re genius,” said O’Brien, who sent a clip of a video to the casting director for the show.
“They’re political satire,” said Smith. “I made them for my little sister.”
Brady, the only male at the table on Wednesday, called “NOS4A2” a “female-driven show.”
“And there’s a strong female lead who also happens to be insecure, which makes her so relatable,” he said.
Another perk of filming in Rhode Island, said Brady, is that many of the people involved in the production won’t have to travel across country this Thanksgiving.
“We’re home,” said Brady.